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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Elephant in the Room

 I just watched a show called The Elephant in the Room. It's about how some people keep exotic animals as pets, and how this CAN be a bad thing that ends in death. First off, I expected them to push the opinion that no one should ever own an exotic and deadly animal as a pet, but they didn't, which impressed me. The opinion was that these are deadly creatures, but that handled right, they can be every bit as loved and part of the family as any other animal. The trick is that the person caring for them has to be prepared to give a 500 pound animal absolutely everything they need in a safe environment that ensures that the animal can't escape and pose a threat to other people.

They made damn sure to dredge up just about every horror story of a death by exotic pet gone wrong around the country, such as toddlers being eaten by snakes and teens being mauled by cougars whose owners couldn't handle them any more and so turned them loose until they became desperate with starvation. I like how one officer made sure to state repeatedly that our country does not have a wild animal problem, it has a people problem. It's PEOPLE who want dangerous pets, and then don't know what to do with them when they get too big to take care of.

So here's my take on it. If I as a reasonably responsible adult had a tiger that was raised as a member of the family, and then one day it turned on us and managed to maul all of us before it was put down, well it would be my own damn fault for having the pet. Our tragedy should NEVER EVER be used as an excuse to pass laws banning such pets, because guess what, for every ONE death you hear about on the news (via pet gone bad), there's thousands more in the country that are living peacefully as pets. (This show talked a little about how many lions are in this country as pets, and their estimate was over 10,000. Think about that number the next time the news tries to tell you that these animals cannot live with people because of ONE tragedy.)

My other thought is: these are pets for eff sake! Why the hell do people forget basic pet care just because they are huge?!?! If you have a baby male lion or tiger, get if effin' neutered, duh, because just like with regular house cats, if you aren't prepared to support every kitten within a 2 mile radius, don't go there! Not to mention, males of every breed are more "docile" once neutered, and if you aren't prepared to deal with a fully grown lion playfully hunting you as it's only playmate, then don't let their aggression manifest in the first place.

And get the females spayed unless you are part of a repopulation program or a breeder specifically licensed to breed these cats with a decent clientele list to handle the babies. I mean come on!!! I was raised to breed pugs, and it taught me that the owner HAS to be responsible for the health and well being of the animal, and if they can't, they have to do the right thing and dispose of them properly. This may mean bringing them to a shelter, and it may mean having them put down, but for Gods' sakes, never ever just turn them loose on the unsuspecting public!!! I mean they could be the gentlest kitty in the world, but all anyone is going to see is a big ass wild animal roaming the streets, and probably hunting the neighborhood dogs and cats. It's the PEOPLE who will eventually drive the animal to hurting someone, probably in desperation or self defense!

In the end, the show was pretty unbiased. I really appreciated that. They didn't insist that people stop buying dangerous animals, they simply made a really compelling case for why you shouldn't do so unless you're damn sure that you can handle it. However, they did do one major disservice; they made it sound like JUST because these were wild animals, that you absolutely HAD to have them outside in nice roomy cages. (Think at least an acre backyard completely enclosed by a tall and sturdy fence.)

I disagree. ALL animals are wild animals. I repeat, ALL animals are wild. Even though we have domesticated almost all species of dog and small cat, they are still wild animals with innate instincts. Just ask any cat owner who has ever had their cat bring them a dead mouse. I see no difference in owning a large cat like a tiger than in owning a large dog like a mastiff or a rottweiler.

I hear you arguing: the difference is that a tiger can kill you with just one slash of its paw or bite of its jaw! Yeah, well so can a large dog. Ask the owner of any breed that has a bad reputation. It NOT how big the breed is or how "mean" they sterotypically are, it's how they are treated. If you treat them with love, they will treat you with love. If you are gentle with them, they will be gentle with you.

If you are an aggressive asshole who just wants to bully a huge male lion around, don't be surprised if that lion eventually decides to fight you for dominance of the pride. Shake my head...

Anyway, where I was going with this is: Just like any pet, the owner must make certain decisions. Will this pet be an indoor pet exclusively? Exclusively outdoors? In at night but have access to the yard during the day? These are important questions to answer because the owner needs to know how to set up the environment to accommodate the animal. For example, an indoor only cat should probably be female and one of the smaller species of large cat - unless the owner has a really big house and can handle a massive tiger or lion. Cats are smart, so try to toilet train them (obviously using a specially designed toilet in their size, which would have to be custom made). If you would declaw a smaller house cat, declaw the big one (which is probably for the best if you are afraid that the big cat might one day try to maul you). If you prefer the cat to keep its claws, then come up with a plan for when it starts scratching up ALL the floors and furniture.

If you want the pet to be outdoor only, invest in whatever it takes to fence in the largest space possible. Make sure your neighbors feels safe. Invite them over to get to know kitty so that if kitty does get loose, they don't panic and call 911 when all they really need to do is give you a heads up that your kitty is now lounging next to their pool (causing their poor dog to bark its head off in an attempt to defend its home).

But above all, never assume that you can control an animal that is bigger than you. Be prepared in case the worst happens. Should a fully grown pet male lion become frustrated that it has no available mates (and it hasn't been neutered), it MAY decided that your leg is the next best thing, and if this is the case, you're going to be severely damaged. It MIGHT be a good idea to have a contingency plan, and the bigger the animal, the bigger the contingency plan will need to be.

It is still my dream to own a white bengal someday, but hopefully, this post has proven that I KNOW that it's not going to happen until I have the right home for such a pet and the unquestionable ability to feed and care for her. Maybe when I have a farm and raise cows, sheep, goats, pigs, and chickens, because then I know I'll always have something to feed her.

Until then, I pray that those in this country who own large and dangerous animals have the sense to treat them right, and if they discover that they can't handle them, take care to find someone who can.

Goodnight all! :-)

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